Contemporary dance and live jazz will come together Jan. 17 in “Woven: Life in Notes and Steps,” the latest piece supported by the Harbison Theater at Midlands Technical College’s Performance Incubator.
“Woven” brings together jazz composer and trumpeter Mark Rapp and choreographer Stephanie Wilkins, who create a musical and visual story of “the circle of life” through 11 distinct musical movements. Rapp wanted a strong storyline in the choreography that related to his and Wilkins’ experiences, Wilkins said, and it was easy for the two of them to find it; while they had never met before, Rapp and Wilkins had similar experiences in life. Both have masters of fine arts degrees in their field, have lived and performed professionally in New York and originally are from South Carolina.
Each of the 11 musical movements is distinct, with the piece incorporating swing, bebop, contemporary jazz and other jazz styles. While most of the dance is contemporary, Wilkins said the varied styles allow her to include a variety of dance styles, including contemporary ballet and swing.
The live performance of the music, rather than using a pre-recorded track, helps enhance the choreography, Wilkins said.
“The first time we worked with (the musicians), it was glorious. It was amazing. It was so different. It brought the dance to life so much more,” Wilkins said. “I was really nervous about it, but it was even better than I expected to hear the music live and to be able to control the tempo and control the length of the piece and for them to hit accents with the dance that you can’t do with prerecorded music ... I’m really, really excited to see it on stage.”
Rapp and Wilkins are producing the third production for the Performance Incubator proejct. The project is intended to allow Midlands performing artists to develop original work, premiere it at the Harbison Theater and tour around the state and the Southeast, said Katie Fox, executive director of the Harbison Theater.
“It reflects the college’s overall mission of connecting capable people with sustainable rewarding careers,” Fox said. “We want performing artists to live in our community ... (It creates) a more sustainable career as a performing artist without having to leave the Midlands, so they don’t have to move to Chicago or New York or Los Angeles or New Orleans to be a professional performing artist.”